Sick of Rotten Call Centers? Do Something About It


Share on LinkedIn

Barely a day goes by without another story of uncaring call centre staff treating customers like dirt and then being surprised when they appear a little while later on an A-list blog, then in the press, then on prime-time television. Hardly any of the big corprations seem immune from this ‘Rotten Call Centre Syndrome’ with Dell, Sprint, T-Mobile and Comcast all coming in for much well-deserved criticism recently.

In one of my jobs as an Interim CRM Manager, I deal daily with staff of the service centre. Every last one of them does a great job looking after customers and attending to their needs as best as they can. They do have standardised processes which defines how they should do their work, but just as important, they also have extensive training in how they can adapt their work to handle unusual customer needs and the empowerment to make it happen. Customer satisfaction with the service centre is the highest in its industry. And Stephen Parry in his book Sense and Respond: The Journey to Customer Purpose shows how Fujitsu uses lean service principles to both reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction. If these two call centres can do it, my assumption is that every other call centre can do it too.

Finally, the customer social network is doing something about rotten call centres. David Cushman at his Faster Futures Blog has formed a Facebook group called ‘No More Call Centre Monkeys’ and published a Call Centre Customer Manifesto.

The Call Centre Customer Manifesto has six fundamental principles:

  1. I want to talk to someone who is listening to me – not reading a script from a computer screen
  2. I want to talk to someone with the power to do something about my problem
  3. I want to talk to someone who knows how to get round the moment when ‘the computer says no’
  4. I want to talk to someone for whom reason is allowed to mean something
  5. I don’t want to input my account number on my phone – then have to tell three more people what it is during the same call
  6. I want a full response to my complaints.

None of the principles seems unreasonable to me. But then I am only a customer.

If you are fed up with getting the runaround when you call customer service, or afraid of getting fired for being on the phone one second too-long or for criticising the company, then join up to David’s Facebook group and express your dissatisfaction.

Tip of the hat to Tomi Ahonen at the Communities Dominate Brands blog.

What do you think? Are call centres doing just fine in the face of difficult economic conditions? Or are call centres more about costs than customers?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager


  1. Graham,

    I have had a couple of very good call center experiences. A particularly notable one was with Countrywide Home Loans, the company that hold the mortgage on my home. I was more than a little stressed by what I interpreted to be nasty and scary notice I got regarding a late payment. The payment was, in fact, lost in their systems. First, the agent calmly and confidently assured me that she would get to the bottom of the issue. She also assured me that one late notice was not a crisis. She stayed on the phone until the matter was resolved.

    Unfortunately, this experience is amongst the exceptions. You have prompted me to look into the Call Center Manifesto. Call Center have a role to play and won’t go away soon. However, I agree with all the point of the manifesto you list. All of them can be dealt with.

    Maybe the manifesto will mount the pressure required to wake-up complacent companies.

    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Author of Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here